How to read and decipher betting pattern poker tells.
In our previous lesson on Reading Physical Poker Tells, we discussed the easiest form of opponent observation. Such tells are depicted in a player’s attitude, speech and body language. Anyone with eyes and the presence of mind to notice can recognize strength and exploit weakness in their competitors.
Today, we’ll be discussing the observance of Betting Patterns; a different type of poker tell that takes a higher level of mental focus and memory to capitalize on. Where physical poker tells are mostly committed by less experienced novices of the game, betting patterns can often be found in players of all skill levels.
What Are Exploitable Betting Patterns?
A betting pattern is any consistent form of betting that coincides with a player’s hand strength. The better the hand, the bigger the move. Calling on decent hands, raising on big ones, and check-raising the nuts—these are discernible betting patterns. One player might bet 1/3 of the pot every time he flops top pair, and 3x the big blind after flopping a 4-card draw hand. He might always 5x raise the big blind, or 3x raise a prior raise, whenever he bluffs.
Discernible patterns are so prominent in the poker world because so many players rely heavily on the mathematical side of the game. These players will often bet in specific stake increments or pot-size percentages, based on their hand strength and the expected value of a win.
Knowing this, and being the smart poker player I know you are (or at least want to become), you have two jobs. You must learn to watch for and recognize patterns in your opponents’ betting style. And you must be conscious enough not to commit the same patterned errors that you’re looking for in others. Neither is easy, but both can be achieved through awareness and experience.
Only the most self-conscious professionals are able to avoid the recognition of patterns in their betting style. This means mixing things up on a regular basis—not being that guy who consistently bets 1/3 of the pot when the flop looks pretty.
Patterns are Discernible Online Poker Tells
Another thing that differentiates betting patterns from physical poker tells is that players can exploit this weakness online. You cannot observe a player’s body language in the virtual realm, since you cannot see who you’re competing against. But betting patterns qualify as all-too-illusive online poker tells.
When playing online, you should also be on the lookout for the time it takes an opponent to place a bet. Snaps calls, brief hesitations and extended periods of time to act can all indicate strength or weakness. Most commonly, a quick call relates to a draw hand, and a long thought process suggests a weak hand. But then, an experienced player can do these things on purpose to trip you up. Be observant and look for patterns first to gather accurate information. And remember it’s always possible someone is taking extra time because they got distracted or ran to the restroom.
On the downside, a lot of internet poker rooms enforce anonymous tables. That means you’ll only have a limited opportunity to read and exploit other players. Once you, or they, leave the table, you may never know if you’re play against them again or not. It becomes a constant struggle to continually read each new opponent you face off against.
For the most observant players, however, it can still help you gain an edge. As always, practice is the key. The more experience you have reading betting pattern poker tells, the more quickly and effectively you’ll be able to do it.
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